New Jersey lawmakers have re-introduced a beach access bill that codifies the Public Trust Doctrine into law and directs the state Department of Environmental Protection to apply it to coastal land use and funding decisions. The Chapter, along with other interested environmental groups, is advocating for the passage of this bill in 2018.
By way of background, a court case struck down the 2012 NJDEP public access rules for the second time in December 2015. In January 2016, legislation was passed and signed into law to give the NJDEP the authority to require onsite or offsite public access only when issuing a permit pursuant to the Coastal Area Facility Review Act (“CAFRA”), the Waterfront Development Act and the Tidal Wetlands Act.
Due to the limited power of the NJDEP to regulate public access, Senator Robert Smith introduced S2490 to codify the Public Trust Doctrine and grant the NJDEP the power to enforce the Doctrine, as well as provide legislative guidance on its implementation. However, S2490 ultimately was help up in committee. The Public Access Bill was then resubmitted as S1074 and will need both the Governor’s and the NJDEP’s support.
The Legislature’s action to codify the state’s obligations and duties under the Public Trust Doctrine will strengthen efforts to ensure that the public has full access to, and use of, the shoreline, tidal waters and other areas subject to the Public Trust. The pending bill will also provide authority to address chronic problems limiting public access to tidal waters throughout New Jersey, such as the provision of support facilities necessary to make access meaningful, including parking, restroom facilities, walkover structures and handicapped access. Without clarification and direction to the NJDEP, municipalities and private landowners have, and will continue, their attempts to limit parking, close off access points and restrict the public from enjoying beaches and waterfronts which case law dictates they have a right to access.
On Monday, Feb. 5, in Trenton, NJ, the New Jersey Senate Environment Committee will consider S1074. Come show support for public access to our ocean, coast and tidal water shorelines and help defend public waterfront access and the public trust! https://www.facebook.com/
Read the full language of the bill here: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/S1500/1074_I1.PDF